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Workers abandon Kachin mines due to military threat

Miners and their families shelter at a local church in Tanai while waiting for transportation to take them home. (PHOTO: DVB)

Hundreds of workers and their families have abandoned the gold and amber mines in Tanai, northern Kachin State, following threats from the Burmese military, which air-dropped leaflets at the miners’ residences on 5 June, stating that mining at those sites was not permitted and that anyone remaining after 15 June would be considered an associate of the outlawed Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

The KIO, which controls the concessions to mining in Tanai, issued its own statement recently, restricting access to the mine sites as conflict intensifies between the Kachin rebels and government forces in the area. The KIO also imposed a 7pm to 6am curfew at the sites.

“In fear of being caught up in the armed conflict, many families have fled from the gold and amber mining sites in Tanai, leaving them almost uninhabited,” said a local aid worker.

Most of the mining families have been sheltered at Buddhist monasteries and Christian churches in the town centre while civil society organisations have responded by offering assistance and helping arrange transportation back to their native towns and villages, whether in Kachin State or scattered across the country.

“Some miners are still at the site because there are not enough boats to transport everyone,” said Zaw Tan, the secretary of the National League for Democracy branch in Tanai. “I have just observed some 350 people sheltering in Karen Baptist Convention Church and another 200 in a catholic church.”

Speaking to DVB, Ashin Asina, the deputy abbot of Tanai Myoma Monastery in Tanai, said. “The monastery has been offering shelter to some 2,000 migrant workers since 6 June as they pass through the town on their way back home.”

Additional reporting by Thin Thin Nwe